I always wanted a pet. When I was a kid, I was not allowed to have cats or dogs because we lived in a flat. Instead, I got a turtle, actually two turtles. I loved them so much because, let’s face it, turtles are adorable. It’s been years now that I live on my own and often dream of the moment when I will have a pet. Unfortunately, I travel quite a bit nowadays so having a pet would be such a torture not only for the pet but also for me. Luckily, Rotterdam has a solution to that: its very own kitty cat café called Pebbles! The kitties are adorable and the moment you walk in you will realize that each kitty has its own unique personality. Let’s say hello to the kitties and to the owner of the cafe!
Thank you for having us. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Freddy. I am originally from Germany and have lived in Rotterdam for close to 7 years now.
When did you first think about opening a cat café? And how did the process (the experience) of opening one in Rotterdam go?
I’ve loved the concept of cat cafes since I first visited one in 2012. But I haven’t seriously considered opening one myself until early 2016. When cat cafes started becoming popular in The Netherlands as well, I just couldn’t pass down the opportunity to make this a reality. Opening a cat café in Rotterdam of all places is very special to me. I love this town and I am very proud to add to its growth and diversity.
How has your experience with the café been so far? How do visitors react? How do the kitties react?
The experience so far has been great. Putting a good group of cats together has been a challenge, but we are extremely happy with the group we have right now. The kittens all get along great and enjoy each other’s company. Pixel, our only boy, is doing a great job of taking care of the babies and you can see the amazing bond he has with some of them (Giny in particular). All the cats have adjusted so well to their new home and love getting visited by people day in and day out. Most visitors have been reacting really well. Especially those visitors who cannot have cats of their own have been so appreciative of getting some snuggle time with the little ones.
In which other cultures did you go to visit cat cafes? Is there a particularly special one that you dream of going back to? What elements (if any) did you take from these other cultures?
The first cat café I visited myself was in Vienna. It’s been a great experience since it had a great living room feeling. Vienna is famous for cozy coffee houses, but this one was very special to me. I was studying abroad in a small dorm room. So having had cats at home my whole life, I really missed their company. So setting this cat café in the area was simply perfect. The main thing I loved about it was that it was quite big and most cats were a little older and very calm. The interaction did not feel forced and the cats had space to go and be on their own. It was great to just have coffee and then have a cat passing by once in a while. I’m trying to create a similar atmosphere with lots of space for the cats. I’ve also been to a cat café in Prague, which I loved for their relaxed atmosphere. They had board games standing around and we were just having coffee and playing some games while being surrounded by cats. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Who was responsible for the design? It looks fantastic for both cats and visitors!
My boyfriend and I have thought of the design for quite a while and we are very happy with the outcome. The main priority was that it is a great place for cats first and foremost. So there is plenty of space for cats to go up and under. We also wanted to stick with natural materials, such as wood, as much as possible. Most of the cat furniture was made locally in The Netherlands, some of it in Rotterdam. It is so important for cats to have a space where they can scratch.
I love this town and I am very proud to add to its growth and diversity.
And now, the most exciting part, please tell us a bit more about the kitties. Who is who and how did they get adjusted to the new environment and to the many visitors?
All of our babies are so unique. We have Pixel, who is the most gorgeous big boy. He is the oldest cat (but still young at 2 years) and takes great care of the little ones. Giny and Roffa are sisters, who were born in the shelter in Sliedrecht. They were born at a time when Pixel was already in the shelter, so he has been with these two since the very beginning. This created a special bond between him and the sisters (Giny specifically). Those two are also the most active kittens we have and will be the first to try to steal a bite of your food. Misty and Shade are the other two black kittens. These sisters love to nap. Misty is the most innocent of them all and just loves to snuggle. Shade enjoys keeping an overview of everything that is happening in the café. You will always find her high up in a scratch post looking down at everyone. Shelly is a black and white kitten who was the latest addition to the group. She is the fluffiest kitten we have and talks a lot. When you get near her or give her a snuggle she will start meowing and making other sounds. She is a little rebel and loves running around and playing with the others, regardless of whether or not they are in the mood to play.
How did you pick the first kitties to be at the café?
We were extremely happy to work together closely with the shelter as well as a cat behaviorist. Finding cats that are happy with other cats and love attention of people can be difficult. So picking the cats was something for which we got a lot of advice from the shelter. They observed cats they had in the shelter for a while to see how their character developed. When they think they found a good match, we went over and met the cats.
What has been the greatest challenge with the kitties so far?
The greatest challenge for the kitties has been getting adjusted to each other. We didn’t start with all of the cats at once. We started with some and then added more cats. Introducing cats to one another is always nerve wrecking because it is hard to predict how they will react.
What has been the greatest reward with the kitties so far?
The greatest reward is just walking into the café in the morning and being greeted by the door by a lot of cute eyes and meows.
What happens when the café is closed? Is there someone who stays with the kitties or are they used to being by themselves?
Most cats are quite happy by themselves for some time, especially when they have each other. The cats do stay alone during the night, which gives them time to relax and have the entire café to themselves. When we are closed for full days (Mondays and Tuesdays for example), we will still go to the café to be with them and make sure they are well taken care of.
How do you balance being a friendly café and creating a safe space for the kitties?
This is probably the hardest part. Every visitor comes with good intentions, but especially those who have never had a cat sometimes do not know how to treat them safely. We have very strict rules that make sure that people know some simple do’s and dont’s for dealing with cats. Everyone working in the café keeps an eye on the cats and the visitors to make sure the cats are happy. We do reserve the right to ask people to leave if they do not follow the rules, which has happened before. This is obviously hard, because we want visitors to be happy, but the cats are our priority. This might also mean that we sometimes do not allow people inside anymore, even if tables seem to be free. We want to avoid that the cats feel stressed at any cost.
What is your favorite part of the café, aside from the obvious answer being the kitties?
When the café is less busy, I love being able to also have a chat with visitors. A lot of them have cats themselves and you always hear fun stories.
And ever since I’ve visited the kitty café the first time, I’ve always wondered what lies behind the door that says “for cats only” or is that top 'miauw' secret?
That’s our cat room. The cat room is meant only for the cats. It is a space for them to retreat in case the café gets too busy for them or they just want to take an uninterrupted nap. They have some places to sleep, some toys, food & water, and litter boxes back there.
You’ve been living in Rotterdam for the past 6 years – what do you love most about Rotterdam and what makes Rotterdam home?
I love the big city vibe and the diversity in the city. Rotterdam has so many different facets to it, so I love trying out new things on the weekend and exploring new areas.
Thank you, Freddy for your time in this! So Rotterdamers and visitors from nearby or further away, when will you book your visit to the Kitty Café?
Stay curious and go explore your city!
Words and photography by Laura M.